Communications Leadership: Cutting Through The Noise
Content. There’s so much of it. Communications leaders play a vital role in filtering out the useful and holding back the nice-to-have.
Content. Information. Updates. Everyone wants to push it out (particularly when trying desperately to achieve an end-of-year objective). It’s inside your company; it’s in the outside world. The big themes keep on coming and coming — sustainability and ESG; diversity, equity and inclusion; hybrid working and the future of work, to name just a few. That’s just within the walls of our companies; we’re inundated with messages and information in our personal lives too — and the work environment doesn’t relent. Add business-as-usual communications to the glut of hot topics and it’s a wonder people can keep on top of it all.
Of course, the reality is that they can’t. They’re overwhelmed and stressed out by the pace and volume of business communications. Their response is to pick and choose what they need to consume to do their ever-busy jobs. And they’re worried that they’re missing something crucial.
One of the key skills of a communications leader is to act as a filter for our audience, removing the noise, advising business leaders on what to communicate — and when — and making it simple for people to know what to do with the information they’re being given. We need to challenge every request to deliver information (or communicate, if it’s about checking understanding) and ensure that it’s relevant to what people in our organisations actually need to do.
Nice-to-have stories and interesting information are noise. Plain and simple. Everything that gets communicated in a business needs to have a point to it, a reason for being shared and a call to action for someone to do something about it. It needs to have a clear, intended business outcome. If it’s optional, it’s irrelevant — and it needs to be spiked before it’s released; otherwise, it’s a distraction. And it’s hogging valuable time.
There’s more demand than ever for communication professionals in this day and age, but I don’t believe that it’s because there’s a lack of communication; rather, I think it’s to do with there being too much information and too little relevance to the audience, which results in people feeling overloaded, lacking critical information and missing the important announcements among all the noise.
Communications professionals need to be that noise filter — gatekeeper is too strong a word, perhaps — to push back when required and advise business leaders on what the audience is going to find relevant and what will be noise. And this is why they also need to know what the audience thinks and what they need to know.